Come fly with me

Wing Commander logo

MINDSCAPE £34.99 * 1 meg * Joystick * Out now

When I first started writing on computer magazines I worked for a PC magazine which has long since disappeared. At taht time games for the PC were more or less unheard of.
There were the usual frogger and space invaders and there was plenty of shareware around but it was all pretty dodgy. The only game worth playing then was Wing Commander.

It came on about ten disks and took about an hour to install - and if you didn't have a hard drive you could forget it, because playing from disks was nigh impossible.
And it wasn't a bad game. If you had a fast enough PC and a sound card you could really get into it. Now it has been ported over to the Amiga, but how well?

The packaging, manuals and so on are identical to the original, only instead of ten disks are two. Even so I installed it onto the hard disk just so I could get the most out of the game.

It begins with a conductor and his orchestra doing their stuff, but it doesn't quite pull it off. What stood Wing Commander apart from the rest of the shoot-'em-ups on the PC were its interactive characters.

You could saunter up to people in the crew bar and get useful information about the missions you were about to fly. Not only were the people in the bar friendly but you flew with an intelligent win-men (or woman) who would attack the enemy ships with as much vigour as yourself.
They might not always have been as effective as you, but they did usually get to shoot down at least one baddie per mission.

The original programmers tried to make WC as film-like as possible, so the bar is quite lively; the barracks have leaks in the roof and when you are killed on a mission you have a full burial - in a space suit with a laser salute.

You begin your career as a very lowly officer flying pretty crappy ships. But as you amass more and more successful missions you are promoted and you get to fly better and bigger ships on missions even more suicidal than the last.

Graphically WC fails miserably. For some reason the convertors have tried to keep exactly the same style of graphics as the PC. This doesn't work, mainly because of the different nature of the machines. Amigas simply cannot handle the amount of information needed to zoom in and show details of the ships you are flying against.
The result is painfully slow, badly drawn graphics which resemble larger brown smudges on the screen when you get too close in.

Controlling your pilot around the barracks is simple - everything is joystick driven - but my main moan is the control of the craft itself.
Maybe I'm being a little snotty but I have played Elite and all the millions of clones that it has and never come across a flight model as unreal as this.
When you are flying you have the normal joystick movement down for up and vice versa - no problem there. Now moving the joystick left or right you would think would give you some sort of pitch in your chosen direction or even a circular spin as with Elite, but not. You move steady as a rock to the left or right which completely destroys the whole effect.

WC does actually play quite well apart from the discrepancies in the control. The battle sequences are well set up and don't take too long.

You are equipped with lasers which you use most of the time. They are generally pretty effective so you don't need to waste your missiles unless you are getting a really good stuffing.
For the section when you are not actually doing anything or any use you can just put on the autopilot which takes you forward to the next battle or meteor storm.

At the end of the day though, Wing Commander is nothing more than a quick diversion and definitely not worth the asking price.

Wing Commander logo

Just another flight-sim or will Wing Commander take you to new heights in gameplay? We take to the skies and find out.

"Glad to see you made it back Falcon. Heard you and Spirit had a bit of a scrap" exclaimed Shotglass the barman, as I entered the room. I replied with a weary smile. Exhausted, I slumped into a chair by the nearest table. It had been a bitch of a day. The Kilrathi had fought hard and fast - my ship had been shot and I had barely made it back. No sooner had I climbed out of the cockpit, than the CO ordered me to his office. "What now?", I thought. I was expecting a reprimand, instead I received a promotion. "Maybe life is not such a bitch after all".

Wing Commander is not just a flight simulation. It is an atmospheric, cinematic-type cocktail of shoot-em-up, flight simulation, role-playing and all-round good fun. The whole game has a real Star Wars feel to it, you really feel like you are in the middle of an epic blockbuster.

The graphics are smooth and impressive, with an almost adventure cartoon feel to them. The synthesised symphonic sound is awesome and always sets the mood of the scene you are in - from martial-like movements when you are fighting to expectorant tinkering when you are waiting in the CO's office for instructions.

This is a story about man's fight against an alien race of cat-like creatures called the Kilrathi; they are intent on destruction, and it is up to you to stop them. But first you have to assign yourself a name and call sign (mine is Falcon), your character is then created and the real game begins.

One of the first scenes is set in Shotglass' bar, where you meet two other pilots, who provide you with useful information to help you on your forthcoming missions. You then move on to the barracks. You walk into a dimly lit room with walls lined with lockers and medals that you have won in battle. Next to each locker is a bed and by clicking on the head of a bed, you can save your current campaign to disk. As you do this, a sleeping pilot appears on the bed to signify that it has been saved.

It is an atmospheric, cinematic-type cocktail of shoot-em-up, flight sim, role playing and all-round good fun

The briefing room set the next scene and this is where you are presented with your mission. The graphic detail here is simple, but effective, with an audience of silhouetted, seated pilots all listening intently to the CO. The music becomes more intense and you know it is going to be a dangerous assignment. Before you know it, you are strapped into your new supersonic fighter. And it is at this point that you will realise Wing Commander is no ordinary shoot-em-up or flight sim. You do not just simply climb into the plane's cockpit and shoot down loads of spaceships. You and other pilots run towards your aircraft in an atmospheric and beautifully animated scene.

An element of strategy comes into play when you begin to confront the Kilrathi. First you have got to activate your navigation screen and find your first waypoint. Invariably, you will meet the enemy, and engaging in combat with them will set your heart thumping. When a spaceship is targeted, a cross-hair appears on screen and an audible locking sequence commences, and then it is time to fire. As the storyline progresses, the missions you are sent on become harder.

Origin really do excel in producing games with clever and detailed graphics, and Wing Commander is no exception. The rendering of the figures and individual scenes appear very real. Ejecting out of your aircraft is especially awe-inspiring - as you are catapulted out of your ship the vastness of space appears for you. Then, you see a close-up of your visor with a 'beacon-on' sign at the top, and reflected in this is the ensuing battle.

The game does seem a bit slow if you are playing on an A600, and if you have not got a hard drive or separate drive you have to keep swapping between disks, although this should not spoil your enjoyment.

Wing Commander is what you could call a shoot-em-up-with class. The mood-inspiring music, the clever saving system and the slick animated sequences all add-up to a game that will keep you coming back for more.
Derek 'Falcon' Davis

Wing Commander logo Amiga Joker Hit

Die Zeit der Spekulation ist vorbei: Mit knapp zwei Jahren Verspätung ist Origins PC-Überflieger nun endlich auch am Amiga gelandet! Dies ist der Moment einzusteigen, den Gurt zu schliessen und das Rauchen einzustellen...

Die Urversion der 3D-Weltraumhatz gilt seit Jahr und Tag als Klassiker - und als echter Härtetest selbst für schnelle AT-Computer! Für eine Konvertierung auf die "Freundin" waren also meterhohe Technik-Hörden zu überwinden, weshalb sie lange Zeit als unwahrscheinlich galt und schliesslich sogar ganz verworfen wurde. Erst zu Beginn des vergangenen Jahres besann man sich eines Besseren und wagte das Umsetzungs-Abenteuer, seither warteten die Raumpiloten im Amiga-Hangar ungeduldig auf die Ankunft des Flügelkommandanten.

Jetzt ist er da, und weiss Gott, er macht seinen Vätern keine Schande. Wurden am PC noch 11 (Standard-) Disketten für das Game verbraten, so sind's beim Amiga gerade mal drei - ohne dass irgendetwas fehlt, was dieses Programm zum Kultspiel werden liess! Selbst mit nur einer Floppy ist Wing Commander spielbar, bloss Diskettenwechsel bleiben dann halt nicht aus. Ein Zweitläufer ist also allemal empfehlenswert, und mit einer Festplatte düst sich's gar richtig komfortabel...

Doch ehe wir irgendwohin düsen, wollen wir mal die storytechnische Ausgangslage klären: In ferner Zukunft schickt die Menschheit Forschungsraumer durchs All, um fremde Zivilisationen aufzuspüren. Für einen davon war die Mission ein voller Erfolg, er stiess auf eine löwenähnliche Alienrasse, die Kilrathis. Leider überlebte die Besatzung ihre Entdeckung nicht, denn die Ausserirdischen pulverisierten kurzerhand das Schiff - seither herrscht Krieg mit den aggressiven Biestern!

Als Spieler mimt man nun eine Space-Piloten, der mit seinem Geschwader auf der Basis "Tiger's Claw" stationiert ist. Vom hier aus startet man zu insgesamt 40 Kampfmissionen: bei Erfolg winken Orden und natürlich die Sprossen einer Karriereleiter, deren Ende der Titel des Wing Commanders markiert.

Der allererste Weg führt jedoch in die Offiziers-Bar. Hier verpasst man seinem Alter Ego einen Namen, dreht ein paar Trainingsrunden am Simulator, um sich mit der Steuerung vertraut zu machen (tatsächlich arbeiten Stick und Maus gleichermassen prima), oder halt ein Schwätzchen mit den Kollegen. Derlei Gespräche sind nicht bloss "Stimmungsmache", schliesslich könnte die eine oder andere Barbekanntschaft Euch später als Flügelmann in die Schlacht begleiten, und es schadet sicher nicht, zu wissen wen man da zur Seite hat. Anfangs ist das freilich weniger wichtig, da stehen erst mal eher harmlose Eskorten am Dienstplan - aber schon bald werden feindliche Jäger und Zerstörer beharkt. Und Erfolg oder Niederlage sind in diesem Spiel wahrhaft allesentscheidende Faktoren...

Davon, wie man sich beim Kampf anstellt, hängt hier nämlich nicht bloss das Fortkommen in der Karriere, sondern der gesamte weitere Spielverlauf ab: die Art der Aufträge, in welches Geschwader man versetzt oder welcher Raumjäger einem vertraut wird. Vier verschiedene Typen stehen dabei zur Verfügung, wobei die Bewaffnung individuell vom Standardlaser bis hin zu diversen Raketen variiert. Jedes Schiff besitzt einem Radarscanner, der Auskunft über das Feindaufkommen gibt, ausserdem ist informativer Funkverkehr mit den Kollegen möglich.

Allein diese Features würden schon eine kinotopmässige Atmosphäre (Luke Skywalker lässt grüssen...) garantieren, wie sie auch "Epic" und Konsorten im Visier haben, doch die detaillierte Bitmap-Grafik schiesst dann definitiv den Vogel ab - selten waren Gestirne und feindliche Raumschiffe am Amiga schöner, nie sah man derart gekonnte Manöver oder Zooms!

Wie erwartet ist das Tempo auf einem Standard A500er nicht unbedingt berauschend, schön flott wird's erst, wenn eine Turbokarte unter der Haube tickt. Richtig rasant soll die Action aber am neuen A1200 über den Screen flimmern, schliesslich hat Mindscape für diesen Rechner eine spezielle, etwas buntere Version in Planung. Allerdings lassen sich die Bilder auch auf herkömmlichen Modellen schon kaum vom VGA-Original unterscheiden, wenngleich hier und da mal ein paar Farbnuancen fehlen. An Perspektiven (Pilotenkanzel, Aussenansicht, etc.) herrscht jedoch kein mangel, und die animierten Zwischensequenzen sind auch alle da.

Da wird die Einsatzbesprechung in allen Details mit verfolgt, man sieht die Raumjäger aus den Hangars düsen, und im Todesfall gibt's ein Heldenbegräbnis. Mitunter werden auch ferne Kriegsschauplätze eingeblendet, und selbst über das Treiben des Feindes bleibt man an laufenden. Akustisch überzeugt Wing Commander durch abwechslungsreiche Musikstücke, die der jeweiligen Situation angepasst sind, etwa dramatische Sounds während der Gefechte bzw. klassische Klänge in ruhigen Momenten. Auch die Soundeffekte können sich hören lassen, bloss auf Sprachausgabe muss man leider verzichten.

Es müsste also schon mit den Teufel zugehen, wenn Wing Commander demnächst nicht auch am Amiga als Kultspiel gehandelt würde - das Teil ist einfach eine Wucht! Und wer dennoch zügert, sich für den fulminanten Action-Spass adäquat mit TurboKärte und Festplatte auszustatten, dem sei hiermit verraten, dem sei hiermit verraten, dass bereits an der Umsetzung der beiden Zusatzdisketten "Secret Missions 1 & 2" gestrickt wird. Jetzt überzeugt? (rl)

Wing Commander logo

It has been a long time coming, but the legendary epic is here and it even takes advantage of the new A1200.

So, Wing Commander eh? Wing Commander - the game which got people buying big, powerful PCs. Wing Commander - the landmark in shoot-em-ups. Wing Commander - the game which saved all that tedious mucking about in hyperspace. Wing Commander - the... aww, you get the idea.

The big problem when approaching a game like this is to separate the hype from the game beneath. It is all too easy to be taken in by the superlatives draped over its shiny, smoothy exterior, and it is also very easy to fall into the trap of adding to the hyperbole. What this takes is some kind of cold, detachment. But then, that is not what being a games fan and critic is about. Hell, I am not a number, I am a reviewer, and I will be enthusiastic or caustic if I want to. So there.

The history of Amiga Wing Commander is widely known, having already faltered on the starting block once, until programming genius Nick Pelling grabbed the reins, with the intent of doing what they all said could not be done - bringing Wing Commander to the Amiga.

And here it is. So what is new? Not a lot, thankfully. When you have got a game design so obviously successful as this one, then there is little point in messing around with the winning formula. No, what has been attempted here is an exact recreation of the original game, with the number of colours being the only compromise. The results are occasionally a little gaudy, but in the 3D space sections the reduction from 256 to 32 colours is hardly noticeable. Phew. Made it to first base.

It works something like this. Humanity, just for a change, is at war. This time it is a big budget interstellar affair, complete with chorus girls and Bubsy Berkely numbers. The bad guys are a bunch of pussies, literally. Going by stock Dr Who (Great! - Dave Golder) name number 29 - the Kilrathi - the enemy are lion-like warriors who seem to have some kind of genocidal grudge against the human race.

The player takes on the role of the rookie who, over the course of game will either be the saviour of the human race, or land them in big doo-doo.

The fact that all the blasting bits link together to form a story, means that each time the player returns to base, a debriefing takes place - sometimes followed by another medal to add to the old collection, sometimes a promotion, or sometimes a severe ticking off. After that it is back to the officer's mess. Here the game can be saved, or a visit to the bar can be made, where other pilots are always keen for a chat - a convenient way of conveying the storyline to the player. A 'simulator' is also available, for a bit of danger-free flying.

Brass tacks time, methinks. Let us be honest, Wing Commander would be lumped in with all the other mindless shoot-em-ups out there if it was not for the graphics. Quite simply, they are the most complex 3D images yet seen in an Amiga game. In place of abstract 3D vectors, Wing Commander offers texture mapped craft. These little cuties actually have surface detail and colouring as if they were plain old sprites, but they can zoom in and out and rotate through all three planes as if they were real, live vectors. In the pictures dotted around this review they may look a bit gaudy and chunky, but when the space ships are actually doing the business - flying towards the player, then peeling off with gunfire smashing against their hulls - that is when the full impact of the graphics technology becomes apparent.

Let us be honest - Wing Commander is in a league of its own in terms of graphics technique. Programmer Nick Pelling has performed minor miracles in getting this stuff on the Amiga at all. Okay, so the colours hagve been compromised quite radically, but the overall effect is still mightily impressive.

The way the missions are threaded together into a coherent storyline should not be underestimated either. The effect serves to draw the player in even further, with little sequences depicting failures or successes in the war effect - all dependant on the performance of the player, of course.

In space, the game works as a very simplified flight simulator - even aterburners are available. Depending on the mission and ship type, mines, missiles and various strengths of photon torpedoes are available with which to wipe out the bad guys. It is not all fight, fight, fight though. Proximity mines and startlingly fast asteroids also lie in wait in that big thing we call space.

The missions themselves vary between reconnaissance, plain old offensive, and defensive jobs. The latter involve escorting huge transporters to designated jump points, while offensive runs sometimes give the player the chance to strike right into the heart of the Kilrathi empire, and go up against the might of a huge enemy warship.

Wingmen are available for some missions, with orders sent via intercom - which can also be used to taunt the Kilrathi during battle. It is all a bit like the fighting sequences of Elite, condensed and concentrated into one intense war.

The first game to really need an A1200

The design aspect of Wing Commander has never been in doubt, let us be honest. The big question mark hanging over the game is one of speed. The original PC version required a pretty damn powerful machine to rattle along at a decent pace, so doubts have been hanging over the Amiga version since beginning.

It is a real shame then, that after such attention to detail on the game, the speed lets things down. On a standard Amiga the screen update is painfully slow, the dynamic graphics being reduced to stop-start blobs. Wing Commander has always relied on its pace to create tension and excitement. Without this, it is reduced to a (very slow) graphical showcase. It is certainly not fast enough to make it anywhere near as playable as it should be. Hell, I feel guilty about this. After all, I am such a fan of the game, and I really cannot see how the game could be made any faster without simplifying the graphics system radically.

But... it is not all heartache, disappointment and tragedy. Somebody at Commodore obviously pre-empted all this, and decided to bring out the fablious, sorry fabulous A1200. It is almost like a cop-out, but on the new machine Wing Commander is a dream - and a very swoony, smooth and pretty dream at that.

Good news for buyers of the A1200, then. For these lucky people, an almost exact interpretation of the original Wing Commander awaits. The only downer is that we are still dealing with reduced colours here - strange when the A1200 can handle it. The real problem, of course, is that Wing Commander on the A12900 shows up Wing Commander on the good old Amiga quite badly. Would you really be satisfied with a version which runs three times slower than on your friend's new super Amiga? I think not.

The game itself is still as paper-thin as ever, of course. Strategy and depth are as absent as ever were. But if delicious 3D shoot-em-ups are your bag, and an A1200 is yours, then Wing Commander awaits. The rest of us would do well to think twice before taking a ride on this particular freedom moped out of nowhere city.

Wing Commander logo CU Amiga Screenstar

The first A1200 games are starting to appear. Tony Dillon casts an exclusive eye on one of the new generation.

Wing Commander is a game spoken of in hushed voices. A game revered the world over. A game that single-handedly brought thousands of PC and PC clones into people's homes. In fact, it can be said that Wing Commander did for the PC market what Mario did for Nintendo. Why? Because it is, without a doubt, one of the most impressive games ever released - visually in particular, and it was because of this that so many PC outlets just set a fast, high specification PC in their window, and let Wing Commander draw the crowds and, eventually, the profits as people decided that it was 'the' game to have. Commodore and Mindscape have made it the key release for their new machine, and who can blame them?

On a very basic level, Wing Commander is a 3D space shoot 'em up, like Activision's Warhead or Elite without the trading. At its highest peak, it's a computer generated space opera, with every bell and whistle possible. The story goes something like this. An evil race of aliens (aren't they always), that go under the name of the Kilrathi, are trying to take over the galaxy that your squadron is based in. You, as pilot of a pretty sleek combat spacecraft, have been called upon to go out there and force the scum back where they came from. That's the overall aim, yours is just to stay alive to fight tomorrow.

The big selling point, which makes what would be a very average game into a superb piece of computer architecture, is the cinematic way in which the game is presented. I'm not talking cinematic in the way that Cinemaware games are presented, I'm talking about the completeness of the game. Everything in the game, visually and aurally, adapts as the story unfolds, giving you the impression that every mission you fly, that every screen and menu you enter, plays a small role in the grand scale of things, rather than just a set of missions going under the banner of a campaign.

Before you can do anything though, it helps to have a drink in the bar and meet some of the people you'll be flying with. Each mission puts you out in the action with two wingmen, and while these might not always be the people you chat with before the mission, you'll still learn a lot to your advantage. It seems like everyone has been flying a lot longer than you, as they impart all manner of advice and knowledge including known flight patterns and strategies of different enemy craft, right down to the best directions to attack from. As the game goes on, you'll be able to build up quite a portfolio of information, so as the missions get harder, so do you.

Chats out of the way, you enter the briefing room for details on the next mission. Usually, this will entail flying from Tiger's Claw (your home base) to a specified area of space and taking out an invading threat. Simple enough. But it's really at this point that you start to notice the effort that has gone into make the game look like a film. The view pans in perfect parallax from the commander to the battle plans on the wall behind him, and then cuts to the faces of the crew you're flying with. Then comes some short animated sequences as pilots head for their ships, and then it's out into space.

Wow! Wow! Wow wow wow! If this is the game that they said couldn't be done on the Amiga, then up your nose with a rubber hose. Wing Commander is easily as good as a 386 version of the PC game. It's fast, it's very smooth and extremely convincing. These are, without a doubt, the best graphics of this kind ever seen on an Amiga.

If you've looked at the screenshots on these pages, you'll already have noticed something special about the game. All the graphics of the outside world are bit-mapped like sprites instead of the more standard polygon based images. By using some very clever coding, minimum memory is used as the graphics are rotated, shrunk, enlarged and generally tossed about to give a very realistic view of space. On a machine like this, it's fast too - as fast as most vector simulations. Looking like this, you can't help but close your eyes briefly as an explosion fills the viewscreen. I can't emphasize enough how good the graphics are. All I can say is that it's worth getting an A1200 just to see this game in action.

If that wasn't enough, the sounds are fairly awesome too. The PC version featured hundreds of hours of music, and the Amiga version hasn't missed a beat. The idea is that the music is playing all the time, and changes to suit what's happening. Obviously, there are different snatches for mission briefing, sitting in the bar and boarding the ship, but how about music in battle that emphasizes how the situation is going. If things are in your favour, the music will be charging and encouraging, if all is against you and your prospects look bleak, the music will darken. It's an impressive effect, and one that works better than anything before it.

This is a very playable game. As a flight sim, it's very basic, with simple left/right and up/down scrolling the display rather than moving around in it. Fire button fires bullets and space bar releases missiles. With minimal other keyboard controls such as thrust and auto-pilot, it takes no time at all to get into it. yes, it's a lot more arcade based than it first appears, but it's a lot of fun. Wing Commander is a perfect example of what the A1200 can do. This is only the beginning.

CROss HATCHING For the sake of speed, the graphics were totally downgraded from the impressive 256 colour sprites of the original to 16 colour bitmaps for the Amiga. Anyone who has tried to animate in HAM knows how much of a speed difference this makes, but as you can see from the pictures here, the game looks nothing but impressive. Apparently, for owners who use the modulator plugged into a TV, the game looks even better, as the slight blurring of a TV screen covers up the cross-hatching used to create different shades.
If you have an A1200 already, and want to make use of its extensive palette, then you'll be pleased to heat that there are plans afoot to release an A1200 only version in the new year that will reinstate the amazing 256 colour palette and show off the game as it was originally intended.
A600 VERSION For A600 owners, I'm afraid it is a different story. The game is exactly the same in effect, with exactly the same plot, storyline and touches. You'll need 1Mb of memory to run it, at least, and a hard drive is seriously recommended if you don't want to lose too much speed. You will be able to run it from floppy, but as the finishing touches are only beginning to be added to the A600 version at time of writing, I can't tell you how much of a difference it will make. By using some clever coding, author Nick Pelling has been able to cram a massive 1.5Mb on a single floppy, so the chances are that there won't be any more than two or three disk swaps per mission, but we'll wait and see.
In terms of sill graphics, the game will look exactly the same. It has been written to run on all formats, so the same 16 colour graphics will apply. Similarly, the game will contain all the same music and sound effects, so you won't lose out there either.
Where you will lose out is in speed, obviously. The poor A600 hasn't the processor speed to handle some of the heavy calculations involved in rotating and resizing all the bitmap graphics in the game, so it all chugs along at a fairly slow rate. This does detract from the action, so if you really want to play this, you'd be better off investing in an accelerator board for your machine.